My Internship at Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary

Hi, I’m Anya, and I’m a Junior from Jacksonville, Florida majoring in Environmental Science. This semester, I interned at the Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary with Robbie and Pamela Fearn. When I first heard in August about where my internship was going to be, I did not know what to expect. I had not done a lot of work in conservation before this semester, but I was excited to learn. When I showed up at the sanctuary in Corolla on my first day of the internship, I knew my time here would be something to look forward to.

I started off my internship by taking a tour around several acres of the property, both by truck and boat. I learned about the history of the historic hunt club, the types of species and habitats in the sanctuary, and the work that Audubon does both in Pine Island and nationally. As the semester progressed, I delved deeper into the significance of the area, both ecologically and culturally, through research at the Outer Banks History Center.

Learning how to drive the boat (and take selfies)

Friends and family would constantly ask me “what I did” during my internship, and my answer would always be the same- kind of a lot of everything. I have a slightly unconventional interest in the intersection between food systems and conservation, and my Pine Island internship allowed me to dig deeper into that relationship in the Currituck marshes while learning hands-on management skills. Overall, I worked with and met countless people during my days as an intern.

While working directly with Robbie, I learned how much work goes into managing a successful bird sanctuary. We spent hours doing tasks from driving around in the boat to assess marsh conditions to redecorating cottages to meeting with environmental scientists. Along the way, I learned about resilience planning in place for climate change and sea level rise, a prevalent threat to wildlife and plants in the Outer Banks. I was able to be part of the management strategies I learned in my classes and learn the compromises that must be made when working with a place as rich in tradition as the Currituck Sound. And, of course, I saw some amazing birds, sea otters, plants, and so much more wildlife.

During my internship, I also had the opportunity to accompany Frank, a local hunting guide for Pine Island and crabbing company owner. I learned about the pressures on local seafood and his experience of duck hunting on the Currituck, along with his adorable hunting dog, Sassafras. Talking to Frank, it was clear how much the locals love and respect the marsh and have a generational connection to the area.

Sassy excited to go on the boat

One of the most rewarding parts of my semester was talking to sanctuary visitors and teaching them about why the Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary is such a special place. I had the opportunity to talk to several tourists on the nature trail about the history and ecology of the place. Some were first-time visitors, and many had been visiting the nature trail for years. All of the people I met showed an appreciation for the land that made me grateful to be a part of conservation efforts. Robbie and Pamela, the sanctuary’s outreach coordinator, also hosted several events throughout the fall. I was lucky enough to attend a few and even sleep in the lodge overnight for the final one. I had many conversations with attendees about positive environmental steps being taken both in Pine Island and across the country. In the end, I left each event reassured that impactful steps are being made by many people who are passionate about the planet.

I would also like to share a special thanks to Robbie, Pamela, Frank, and all the others who took the time to work with me throughout this semester. I am incredibly grateful to have experienced all that I did, which would not have been possible without many kind and generous people.

Fun Exploring Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Hi y’all! My name’s Leanna Mahle and I’m a senior majoring in Environmental Studies and Public Policy.

Imagine being surrounded by some of the most beautiful natural sites and you’ll soon find yourself in the Outer Banks. This is where this week’s blog post starts.

One thing I have been loving is the exploration of many of the natural areas around us. We have been lucky enough to be a quick drive over from Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge was established in 1984 to preserve pocosin wetlands and has since then become 152,000 acres of sanctuary for animals ranging from black bears to the critically endangered red wolf.  It has also become a sanctuary and place of adventure for people.

We have made it a habit to visit. In the first few weeks were able to explore places like Twiford and Sawyer Lake Road and saw black bears! It was fun to learn that many of the farmers in the Refuge utilize cooperative farming, meaning wildlife is allowed to eat parts of the crops and the farmers will later be compensated for anything that was lost. This helps balance the need for human and wildlife food while maintaining the Refuge’s main goal of protection.

Black bear spotting. (Look very, very closely at the black spot near the middle of the photo.)

Later we visited Stumpy Point, a small community near the Refuge. We had gone to see what kind of infrastructure was put in place in an area prone to sea level rise. Many of the houses close to the water had small rock walls to protect them, but keep in mind, this is only allowed on the sound side in NC. Also while there, we saw different tree species, all kinds of butterflies, and… the Dare County Bombing Range. Personally, I thought that was hilarious. Don’t worry, we didn’t get any closer than the sign.

Stepping out in Stumpy Point to appreciate the views.
Us posing with the Bombing Range sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And most recently, we explored the Palmetto-Peartree Preserve. This has to have been one of my favorite places so far. It has access to marsh grass and trails, all of which really showcase some of the most beautiful species. We saw all kinds of mushrooms, some of which I could identify and others I couldn’t. I am by no means a mycologist but an avid fan of exploring and stumping the iNaturalist app. I have truly loved going through and seeing all that the Refuge offers. If you’re ever in the area don’t forget that there is camping nearby and plenty of opportunities to see unique wildlife.

Palmetto-Peartree Preserve marsh grasses and sign.
Fly Agaric mushroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing y’all the best!

-Leanna Mahle ’22

Fall in the Air

It’s October, the days are chillier now (50s or 60s – imagine!), and there’s that fall smell in the air. With fall, our cohort has changed too – become a little closer, played a couple more card games, caught a couple more sunsets, and rushed to Front Porch to get a couple more coffees. We’ve switched out our bare feet and sandals for shoes (most of the time!) and our bathing suits for sweaters. Pumpkin bread has finally made its appearance at the Wanchese Farmer’s Market and during weekend thrifting trips, we dredge up warmer clothes to fight off CSI’s vicious winds. With fall have come new lessons and adventures, and I’ll share a couple here.

Lesson #1:   Understanding place

On Friday, we took a field trip that provided a look at the economies and ecotourism in surrounding towns, helping us to understand this coastal place. It was a busy day! First, we visited Duck, a town north of Kitty Hawk, which has a year-round population of just over 700 that skyrockets to 20,000 around July. Our group got the chance to meet with Matthew Price, the local developer of The Waterfront Shops in Duck, to discuss sustainable development along the coast.

Next, we moved further North to Corolla and the northern beach communities, economies based on natural resources. Once filled with hunting lodges and wealthy hunt clubs, today these areas are valued family vacation and recreation destinations. Tours around the Corolla and Carova beaches gave us insight into the difficulty of local decision-making when most stakeholders aren’t local. Our cohort also trekked up the 220 steps leading to the top of Currituck Lighthouse. The view was worth it!

The Pine Island Audubon Society was our last stop of the day, and Anya, who’s interning there this semester, gave us a quick tour of the property and its management as the sun set over the marsh. As we packed into the van to head back, I began to consider the range of perspectives we had experienced and felt puzzle pieces coming together in my mind. The stakes we all hold in the coast are high, and in these dynamic natural spaces, our interests interact in very nuanced ways.

Lesson #2:

Fall on Roanoke Island wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Island Farm’s Pumpkin Patch! Just a mile down the road from the Guest House, the Island Farm is a living history site and working farm that interprets what life for Roanoke Islanders was like in the early 1800s. Through this site, visitors can see how people made Roanoke Island home.  During certain Saturdays in October, the Island Farm hosts a fall celebration, where visitors can pick out pumpkins grown on the farm. We arrived promptly at 11 am on Saturday the 15th, and the farm was already buzzing with vendors and families. At the entrance, a giant Island Farm-grown pumpkin greeted us – it ended up weighing around 1,200 pounds! We soon selected our own unique array of pumpkins with impressive color ranges from mint green to fiery orange.

By 1:00 pm, we had all tried our hands at blacksmithing, crafted beeswax candles, and been defeated by Josh and Leanna in a high-stakes group tug-of-war game. There couldn’t be a better way to understand the historicity of the land we’re making home this semester. As we make this place home, it’s important to understand how people before us made this island home.

A lively pumpkin-carving party soon ensued on Saturday night. We have quite a few artists in the group!

Anna and Josh show off their chandlery skills
Group picture at the Island Farm

 

Lesson #3:

OBX falls bring sunsets of stronger colors – bright reds, oranges, and pinks.  After pumpkin picking on the island farm, we caught a chilly sunset at Jockey’s Ridge, the massive sand dunes overlooking the Sound sunset. More lessons from fall: Jockey’s ridge gets dark quickly after sunset and quickly turns from familiar rolling hills to an alien landscape. Beautiful – and scary!

Lesson #4: Soft-serve ice cream is always good, no matter the time or season! Last weekend, our cohort took a rather chilly impromptu night trip to our favorite ice cream place, Frosties, in downtown Manteo. They have good ice cream (try the cereal milk flavor, if you have the chance), and the inside walls are covered in ice cream puns!

As the leaves begin to turn red, the navigationally challenged among us (that’s me!) are proud to say that we no longer need Google Maps to find our way home.

A Week of Early Mornings

After two busy weeks of orientation and a week and a half of COVID-altered plans, we’ve finally settled into a routine here in the Outer Banks. Our weeks are filled with individual internship work, capstone fieldwork, and field trips around the islands. Let me run you through what a typical week at the Outer Banks Field Site looks like: 

Organizing hundreds of archival shipwreck photos
Organizing hundreds of archival shipwreck photos

Monday morning, 6am: Something I love about my internship with the National Park Service is how unexpected it is. Even though my days are very structured and timely in terms of when they start and end, I never know what I will be up to on any given day. Last week, I assisted in a full necropsy of a Risso’s dolphin that had washed up on shore. This week, I got to identify and organize archival shipwreck photos dating back to the 19th century. I spent the rainy day sitting in a bare cinderblock building at the back of Fort Raleigh, which I expected to be similar to the junk drawer in my kitchen – full of random but necessary items that don’t fit in anywhere else. Instead, I found myself flipping through frightening and beautiful pictures of life saving crews in action as ships succumbed to the dangers of the Graveyard of the Atlantic. I spent my lunch break gawking at the titles of old books lining the room (some examples: “Annual Reports of the Life Saving Service from the year 1880” and “Wanchese Harbor Project Seminar from 1977”). Never underestimate the potential of an unmarked building!

Tuesday (and Thursday), all day: These are our class days, which we spend at CSI learning about environmental economics, coastal management and ecology. This week, we played Game of Floods, a game requiring us to work together to save the various structures and ecosystems of our unnamed island. It felt especially fitting given the past few weeks dealing with the effects of Hurricane Ian. These are also days to work on homework or other miscellaneous activities, like group dinners or beach trips. 

Our ride into Buxton Woods

Wednesday, 7am: Over the past three weeks, the cohort has squished into CSI’s white van and made our way down to Buxton Woods for our capstone research. On this particular day, we quickly transitioned from our warm, sand-covered bus into the bumpy bed of a truck taking us deeper into the forest. We tried catching overhanging muscadine grapes in our mouths as we rushed down sandy trails, reminding me of the scenes in Sound of Music where the kids are happily skipping around Salzburg in matching dresses or hanging out of trees along the roadside. My excitement for the day was only slightly dampened by the rain and the task that lay ahead of us: finding the plots we hoped to sample. If there’s anything harder than following enigmatic instructions into the dense undergrowth of a unique maritime forest, it’s following such instructions written in 1988. Our main point of reference was a large dead Quercus tree, which was allegedly lying in the middle of our yet-to-be-identified plot – at least that’s where it was nearly 40 years ago. Our metal detector was having a field day; it beeped on everything other than our metal conduits, from beer cans to bullet casings. In the end, we estimated the position of the plot, and got to work on measuring and recording trees and vegetation. 

Students trying to decipher the Cold War Era directions
Students following a trail into the woods Photo by Emmy Trivette

The act of searching for these stakes reminded me of an activity I have enjoyed for many years now – geocaching. Geocaching is a sort of global scavenger hunt, involving deciphering riddles and mapping coordinates that lead you to physical treasures hidden all over the world. I experienced similar feelings searching for the conduits in the woods as I do geocaching – the seconds of elation after hearing a sound from the metal detector, the subsequent disappointment of realizing we were two hours in and it was just another fishing pole buried in the ground, the subtle oddity of searching for a small object in a large stretch of land. Both activities force me to consider the various uses of space and of belonging to those spaces – two concepts that are very relevant to the social aspect of our capstone research. Geocaching garners some suspicious glances, as it requires randomly glancing under park benches or in between bricks on a wall to find the caches in places you wouldn’t otherwise visit. I’ve been lucky enough to have never been questioned when skeptically looking around an area, but I always wonder what people think I’m doing. Similarly, I wondered what the Buxton horse back rider, seemingly a local, thought of our large group sitting in the woods as she went about her weekly ride (entirely an assumption that it would be weekly). I’ve found it useful to reflect on what it means to be researching this space that many people call home; from the act of trampling the vegetation we’re meant to be surveying to the limitation of only visiting the woods a handful of times. 

Friday, 7am: Early mornings seem to be a theme for the OBXFS. We conducted a ghost crab lab this Friday, which is how I found myself holding a measuring tape while hula hooping on the beach at sunrise. Once we finished reliving our childhood summertime hula memories, we tossed the hoops down an outlined transect and counted the number and size of ghost crab holes present. Even though they are a pain in the butt for my National Park coworkers and our safekeeping of turtle nests, ghost crabs play a vital role in beach ecosystems as an indicator species. We also used a clam gun (it is really called that) to analyze the organisms on the beach face – so many sand fleas! 

Anna and Julia conducting the ghost crab lab Photo by Emmy Trivette

By 9am, we were done for the day. We said goodbye to the ghost crabs (until next time) and a few students hopped in the car, making our way to Pittsboro for the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival. Living on an island can feel isolating at times (another relevant Buxton Woods capstone topic), and being back to a familiar area on the mainland felt refreshing. On our drive back over the bridges connecting to Roanoke Island, however, I realized that I didn’t need to go back to the Triangle to be in a familiar place after all. I can’t wait for more crabs, tree diameter measurements, and unmarked historical buildings. All in a week’s work, I suppose!  

 

Cultivating the Sand

A sharp right into an inconspicuous grass lawn off Ethridge lane in Manteo brings you to a small farm called Croatan Gardens. Unlike the monocu

Rows of turmeric and heirloom tomatoes

lture corn fields lining NC-64, this plot is packed with diverse fruits, flowers (four foot tall dahlias), and vegetables. All tilled, planted, and harvested by my coworker Eric Soderholm, the garden is a glimpse of sustainable, coastal agriculture. The plot used to be your typical American grass lawn, until he convinced his landlord to let him rip up the grass and plant a garden. Now produce harvested from the garden is either sold at the Wanchese Farmer’s market—that Soderholm started—or donated to local food banks.

 

A week ago, Leanna and I visited the garden. Packed into half an acre are rows of turmeric, chocolate peppers, dahlias, heirloom tomatoes, melons, and sweet potatoes. Squash and beans grow vertically onto terraces and fences. As we walked through the stretches of plants, Eric pointed out rare varieties of peppers and melons and explained the farming techniques he used. The walkways are often filled with snaking crops—butternut squash and black eyed peas.

At the end of the plot stands a 15-foot tall wall fence laced with bean vines with heart-shaped leaves. Get a closer look and you can see the vines cascade down

Cool beans

the fence, running towards the plot for another 10 yards. Within the dense patch, the plants are intertwined––each with no distinguishable start or end. Through the leaves, you can see glimpses of the partially-constructed root cellar, restaurant sized-refrigerator, and shed.

After Eric showed us the shed and root cellar project, we returned to the field and picked green, orange, and red heirloom tomatoes, purple peppers, wrinkled shishitos, and variegated eggplants. Carrying cardboard boxes on our hips––or, in my case, on my head––we picked and chatted then took the produce to outdoor sinks to wash. In one swoop, we dumped all our pickings into a white plastic sink filled with water. And, thanks to a lone eggplant, the sink did not drain. 

Leanna and I washing some peppers and eggplants

The fruit and veggies floated on the surface, a collage of oddly shaped greens, purples, and reds. Then we pressed on the veggies, like a five-year-old pressing down on a big bowl of slime. In the most satisfying way, the peppers and eggplants sank into the water and re-emerged seconds after battling to the surface. We repeated this several times. Then we sorted into cardboard boxes and handed them off to Eric. 

Eventually the wind picked up and rain followed. Dirt-covered and mosquito-bitten, Leanna and I returned home with a basket of fresh produce and a sense of awe. At 16 feet above sea level, my coworker had managed to transform a regular lawn into a bountiful farm. And despite living hundreds of miles away from the mini Carolina edible campus garden beds and our parents’ backyards, we’d found a little spot to lend a hand.  

Teamwork put to the test

As Anna shared last week, we have experienced many obstacles leading up to week six in the Outer Banks, but now we are finally in the swing of things. This week, we have truly been able to dive into our capstone research in several aspects and test our ability to work as a team.

The first test we faced this week was holding our second meeting with the Community Advisory Board (CAB). Throughout the semester, we will be meeting with the CAB to discuss our progress on our capstone project and receive much appreciated feedback that is directly from community members. This was our first presentation as a team, so we had to find a way to delegate the work and still come together to make it cohesive.

Wednesday was also a challenging day for us. We spent several hours discussing the interviews that were conducted for last year’s capstone project picking out key concepts that each interviewee mentioned. As a team, we had to analyze the list of hundreds of concepts we found and condense the list down to 25. You can only imagine how difficult that could be. We had meaningful discussions and listened to each other’s thoughts and ideas and created a new concept list we all agreed upon.

Kayla and Jared standing in front of a hard day’s work

After talking about Buxton Woods so much, on Friday, we got our first chance to go and begin our data collection for the capstone. We were faced with the challenge of deciphering vague descriptions from 1988 of where this sample plot was located, so we would be able to begin our sampling. Thanks to a few people’s strong orienteering skills, we were able to locate the old conduits fairly quickly. The rest of the day we were in smaller teams to complete our data collection. It was a learning process of trying to find the most efficient methods of sampling and working together to try and do so. Overall, this was another successful day of collaboration as we continue to learn how we can work together.

Anna using a bearing compass to find the conduits from the sample plots from 1988
Jared placing a flag into the first conduit we found
Quinn (me) smelling the leaves of a Red Bay tree to identify it
Photo credit to Emmy 🙂
Julia measuring the diameter of a loblolly pine

This week has shown us ways we work well together and other areas that will need improvement to have a successful semester inside and outside of the classroom. As I reflect on everything we have done so far, I feel optimistic and hopeful for the rest of the semester. Even though we all have backgrounds in the environmental field, every person brings something unique to the table and is eager to learn from one another. I feel lucky to be a part of this cohort and am excited to see what we will accomplish as a team.

BONUS CONTENT!!

Celebrating Julia’s birthday with the best pecan pies made by our favorite chefs, Tara and Anya
A beautiful sunset featuring Kayla at Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Sophie showing some of our cohort the coolest spots in Nags Head Woods Preserve where she is spending her internship for the Nature Conservancy

Building Resilience Together

Erode. Adapt. Accrete. Erode. Adapt. Accrete. Take a few steps backward. Learn and adjust. Take a few steps forward.

As one might expect, we’ve been learning and exploring the nuanced disposition of the Outer Banks both inside and beyond the classroom. The word that routinely is employed to describe the ecosystem is dynamic. Always changing. Never stagnant. Though there are many causes of the coast’s fluidity, the ecological processes of erosion and accretion are large drivers of change to the shoreline.

Similarly, whether due to internal or external factors, our cohort and its characteristics are also constantly evolving. Despite having been here only 5 weeks, we’ve already experienced our fair share of erosion that has forced adaptation and ultimately led to accretion.

Erode:
A single big storm can devastate the shoreline in one fell swoop. Gradual washing away of the shoreline over time cannot be ignored, but the threat of one storm event is always present. Last week, we were hit by a cascade of positive COVID-19 cases. In any learning environment, this would have been a sizable problem to tackle, but we faced quite the challenge since our cohort not only takes the same courses but also lives together.

Testing negative together after our week of isolation

 

 

 

 

 

Socially distant porch gathering

 

Nevertheless, our group made the decision to (safely) fight the less-than-ideal circumstances. In the midst of the isolated storm, we minimized damage by organizing “socially distant” gatherings to keep the group energy alive albeit abnormally so.

Adapt:
Now that the isolation period is over, this past week allowed us to begin our re-entry process back to routine and reality. We were still in masks, and some are still recovering from the virus, but we’re moving in the right direction towards normalcy. To keep the metaphor going, we are also getting accustomed to being around each other again. Despite the numerous hours spent together, most of us have only known each other for just over a month. Prior to our spell with COVID-19, we’d established the group dynamics but were still figuring each other and our individual roles out. The isolation week provided a strange reprieve from that so this last week recommenced the process.

As one student put it “I feel physically better than I did when I had COVID-19, but I kind of got used to the isolation and being on my own. So, I’m having to gradually reengage and mentally prepare myself for the constant social interactions again.”

Accrete:
Contrary to the possibility of a lone erosion attack, the coast accretes slowly and persistently over time. (For the sake of accuracy, there are options such as beach renourishment that can build the shore up in a single action however, in this metaphor let’s pretend that it is not an option).

Ok so, how does a group accrete? Spend time and experiences together.

On Tuesday, our first day back at CSI in over 10 days, we all coordinated outfits of white shirts, jean bottoms, hats, and bare feet to see if Andy would notice (he didn’t). Thursday night we had a group wide dinner to hang out and catch up outside the walls of the house. On Friday, we had the opportunity to travel to the Great Dismal Swamp/Lake Drummond for a day-long kayaking expedition. Nothing quite bonds a group of people like a road trip and paddling around for 5 hours. This past weekend the cohort oscillated between the beach, camping, doing homework, and getting ready for the week. Activities that could be performed alone but are better together.

Going to class on Tuesday in our organized group outfit
Part of the group camping in Frisco over the weekend
Paddling through the canal to Lake Drummond on Friday
Lake Drummond

Erode. Adapt. Accrete. Erode. Adapt. Accrete. Take a few steps backward. Learn and adjust.Take a few steps forward.

Who knows what storm event is on the horizon for our cohort, but as time has progressed so too has our resiliency. One way or another we’ll get through it together.

Coastal Seminar, Intro to OBXFS

By Emmy Trivette

Every student has difficulty readjusting to the familiar hum of the school year after saying another goodbye to summer. It’s hard to feel that way when you’re starting the next semester at the beach. For me, someone who grew up in Kitty Hawk, it’s a new-age homecoming. Our first week here has certainly been very different from the FWOC (first week of classes) most of our friends are having back in Chapel Hill.

Arriving in the harbor of Wanchese on our second day of class. We’re pretty lucky that it was a boat tour and not a pop quiz.

So far our time has solely been used to adjust and orient ourselves with the land and the schedule. We’ve toured around Manteo, and visited the Tri-Villages of the South, all too familiar parts of my childhood. The most interesting part of the week has been the CSI facility. Touring that, getting used to the idea that this is now our classroom and office, that the professionals throughout the complex all have something to teach us. The team dynamic exercises were also much more useful than I thought they would be. So far, the program’s emphasis on, and application to scientific theory behind teamwork is great. I underestimated how much I’d like this style. By quickly learning our way around each other at home and in the classroom, the atmosphere has begun on a high note. The comfortable tone feels like it’s pulling us up from that usually bumpy transition, and into the beginning of a different school year.

A Student’s Guide to the OBX

A Student’s Guide to the OBX

It is nearly impossible to write about just one single day or experience that I’ve had in the last three months living here in the Outer Banks. Since my arrival in Manteo, there have been many moments with my peers that I have committed to my memory, so I’ve decided to write about the ones that stand out the most to me. Here is a guide to memorable things you can do as a student in the outer banks field site!

A view of the sound at Pea Island Wildlife refuge. Salt marshes are one of my favorite ecosystems!

Go to the beach!

The first thing we did as a group was going to the beach after class on FDOC. We swam, sat on blankets and played cards, until the sun started going down. Jennette’s Pier is my favorite beach spot, where the sunset gives some of the most beautiful light on the pier pilings and shines through the waves. You can play Kadima, cards, or read and listen to music on warm summer evenings with the waves crashing in the background, surrounded by your friends.

Jennette’s Pier during golden hour!
Nathalie and Steve playing Kadima on the beach. It was a privilege to watch such athleticism!

Pick up bugs!

One of my favorite things to do during the break in between classes is to find all the cool bugs that reside around CSI!

We have a plethora of mantises, cicadas, locusts, and cool spiders! As long as you are careful and gentle, they won’t hurt you, and they make for such cute little friends! My personal favorite were the praying mantises, as they will walk across your hands and up your arms, or rest on your head!

Praying mantis hitching a ride on Kenan’s hat!
Mackenzie holding a praying mantis on campus!

Go stargazing and catch ghost crabs!

One of the most amazing things about the Outer Banks is the night sky. At Coquina beach, about 15 miles south of Jennette’s, you get some pretty dark night skies with the milky way visible! I loved putting down blankets and laying on our backs watching for shooting stars as they fly by. If you’re lucky, you will see thousands of ghost crabs covering the shoreline, and if your friends are really cool, they will teach you how to catch them!

Rebekah managed to catch two ghost crabs unassisted!

Have fun on field trips!

Take advantage of the interesting and unique field trips the field site will offer! We got to explore the entirety of Hatteras Island by going to different museums, checking out wildlife, and eating yummy food! We also got to conduct research down in Buxton, which was a really cool experience. Exploring Duck and Corolla was my favorite field trip. We got an in-depth tour of the town and went to museums and the Currituck lighthouse!  Afterward we kayaked through the marshes, watched wild horses from the back of a truck, and ate some really good pizza.

Steve and Joseph taking a nice relaxing paddle in Corolla.
Jason, Blakely, Steve, Nathalie, Cathy, Jane, and Rebekah all suited up to traverse our maritime forest, Buxton Woods!

Do something fun for fall break!

Most of us ended up camping at Jane’s farm in Maryland for fall break, a lovely retreat from the hustle and bustle of school and beach. We were able to go to D.C and visit lots of museums and eat delicious food! We had lovely fireside chats every night, and had fun with archery, crabbing, petting farm animals, and various other ventures.

Jane taking us for a joy ride in the Gator!
Anna holding a blue crab that we caught in a crab pot on the Potomac River!

Participate in spooky season!

We went to Island Farm and picked out our pumpkins for carving! We carved our pumpkins all together on the porch and it was really fun to see everyone’s creativity take form through their jack o’ lanterns! Wanchese woods –a haunted trail in the forest of East Lake– was another fun and spooky activity! We went in small groups, where Steve and Joseph showed us their vulnerable sides as they screamed throughout the horrifying maze. We watched several scary movies in the month of October, and finished on a high note by watching The Shining in our costumes on halloween night.

Blakely, Anna, and Nathalie with their prized pumpkins at Island Farm!
Joseph posing for a snap with his new friend, nightmare jester!

Visit Ocracoke!

This past Friday, we had a field trip to Ocracoke Island! We piled into the van at 7 am and headed down to Hatteras to board the ferry. It turned out there was a nasty Nor’easter in town, and the ferries for the weekend were all cancelled, so getting there was the easy part but the prospect of getting back out that evening was unknown. We decided that Eduardo’s, a delicious Mexican food truck, was worth the risk of getting stranded on an island for the weekend. Despite some gnarly waves and gale-force winds, we saw dolphins swimming and jumping  out of the water directly in front of us at the bow of the ferry, making it all worth the while.

A very poor photograph of a bottlenose dolphin swimming in front of the ferry to Ocracoke!
Rebekah soaking up the sun and letting the wind flow through her hair on the ferry!

Make new friends!

The people are by far the best part of living in the Outer Banks for the semester. I had some doubts about moving to a new place to live with a bunch of strangers, but it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Every single person here has something special to offer, and each has their own set of unique qualities that are well worth getting to know. As soon as I got here, I was sad that I would have to leave at some point, but I am going to cherish this place and the people I am fortunate enough to call my friends until I have to go.

Kenan, Anna, Nathalie, and Rebekah climbing a large live oak tree in Corolla!
Jane wrangled a locust in the tall grasses of CSI!
Jane and Anna shaping up Steve’s luxurious locks!

shenanigans

My favorite part of the Outer Banks Field Site is the people. At the guest house, there is always something to do and always someone to do it with. Any event can be turned into a fun experience. For example, one Tuesday night, I was upstairs along with some of my best-est friends, watching a movie. Some of my other classmates were downstairs, cooking dinner. Then our relaxing evening was suddenly interrupted by a blaring alarm. Everyone in the house was just confused. There was no smell of smoke in the air and there were no flames to be seen. Those of us watching a movie wandered down the stairs to see if something had happened in the kitchen. All we found were people just as confused as we were. Our RA, Rachel, told us to go wait outside until we could figure out if there was truly any danger. So onto the porch, we migrated. One of my classmates, Steve, sat on the porch, still cooking his instant noodles.

Steve and his noodles

Another resident of the house came running out, wrapped in a towel and another towel in her hair. As you can imagine, she was thrilled. There was no sense of panic at all, just annoyance and confusion. Right at this moment, our classmate Kenan pulls into the midst of all this chaos. Confused, he joins the group in waiting for something to happen. Eventually, the firemen arrived. One had arrived before the engines and had gone into the house to detect smoke. Before he entered the house, he asked us to go stand far away, so we went and stood in the dark corner of the parking lot. When he exited the house, back up had arrived. Two fire engines and a whole fleet of police cars blocked off the intersection. He told them that he did detect smoke, so the firemen began to suit up. All of us just stood in the parking lot in disbelief. Steve ate his noodles. Another classmate and resident, Mackenzie and Caid, continued to eat their meal. Another resident sat down and took a nap. The rest of us looked on, waiting to see the house engulfed in flames. Thankfully that never happened; to pass the time we began to play Among Us. Eventually, the firemen arrived at the same conclusion we had: there was no emergency. Come to find out, the fire alarm was triggered by meatballs. As inconvenient as this situation was, cracking jokes and playing games made it seem like another regular night. 

Another example was our fall break. For our fall break, we decided to drive up to Washington D.C.

Blakely and Nathalie taking a picture of me on our way to D.C.

One of our classmates, Jane, and her family were nice enough to host us on their farm in Maryland. It was truly beautiful; we got to feed horses, ride around in a gator, and camp out. One of the days, a smaller group of us decided to head into the city. We drove to the train station and rode the metro in. There we spent the whole day exploring D.C. with its many museums and sites. After an amazing Italian dinner, we decided to explore the city at night. Nathalie, Joseph, and I rented scooters while Steve and Blakely took a relaxing stroll towards the Washington Monument. The city had become quiet in the night. The monuments were illuminated and the moon was shining bright; it was truly beautiful. It was a perfect night and the reflecting pool proved to be the perfect place to ride scooters. Since it was a long straight line, you could push the scooter to its max without having to be worried about being hit by a car. We weaved in and out of people, racing from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. It was a blast and a night that I will remember. 

 

The Washington Monument

More recently, it was Halloween. Of course, we carved pumpkins. It was so fun to sit around, listen to Halloween music, and see what people decided to carve. Some went the creative route while others were more traditional. One of my favorites was my classmate Rebekah’s pumpkin. She took an out-of-this-world approach, making her pumpkin extraterrestrial.

Rebekah’s Pumpkin

Another one of my favorites was Jason’s. His pumpkin was so wholesome, embodying the spirit of fall. Joseph’s pumpkin deserves an honorable mention since this was his first time carving a Jack O’ Lantern. It was hard to believe that he had never carved a pumpkin before, but he took to it quickly. Halloween night a group of us watched the Shining. It was Blakely’s (who was Monica from Friends) and my (who was Rachel from Friends) first time watching the Shining, but Fran (who was a chef), Nathalie (who was Steve), and Kenan (who was Cheech) were there to enjoy our gasps of surprise and shock. After the movie, we talked about our favorite parts and other scary movies we love.

Joseph and his pumpkin

I guess the point I am trying to make with all these anecdotes is that it is the people that make these experiences so memorable. I have experienced a fire drill before, but not while wearing flame socks with Steve eating noodles. I have been to D.C. before, but never with friends and never having ridden a scooter around the capital’s monuments. And for Halloween, I have carved a pumpkin before, but only ever with my family. Each person here has changed my life, and that includes my professors, the people I have met at my internship, and all the random people I have met at the guest house. If you decide to experience the field site, the friends you make will change your life for the better. 

(left to right) Kenan, Steve, Nathalie, Fran, Jane, Blakely, Joseph in D.C.